Sussex have warmly embraced a few Pakistan players over the years and Naveed Arif Gondal might just be the latest.
The 29-year-old all-rounder still has some way to go to emulate the likes of Mushtaq Ahmed, Imran Khan and even current team-mate Rana Naved.
But Gondal became an instant hero on his Hove debut when his maiden century helped stave off defeat against County Championship pace-setters Lancashire.
Gondal was on 32 and Sussex only led by 69 when he was joined by Monty Panesar but the pair added an unbeaten 90 for the last wicket and the teams shook hands immediately after Gondal hit his eighth boundary, to go with four leg-side sixes, to reach his century. His previous highest score in 42 first-class innings was just 49.
His command of English is such that afterwards Amjad Khan acted as his interpreter, but the sentiment was clear enough.
“It was incredible and I am really proud of my achievement,” he said. “I have to give (coach) Mark Robinson a lot of credit, we have been working on a few technical things which have paid off.”
Robinson hailed Gondal’s century “a special innings”. He said: “He showed great concentration. We have thrown so many balls at the lower order in recent days our shoulders are almost dropping off but we need them to contribute so our approach as a coaching staff has been vindicated.”
Gondal’s stand with Ed Joyce, who made a magnificent 140, was key to Sussex’s survival but Joyce admitted the quality of Gondal’s strokeplay had surprised him. He said: “I’m absolutely flabbergasted to be honest. I knew he could bat but that was an innings of serious quality.
“The way he played the spinners, and in particular the positions he got himself into, was very impressive. As a fellow left-hander he has given me a few pointers.”